“Lorna Dunne?” the woman called out from a nearby doorway.
Lorna was on her feet and across the room without hesitation, but careful not to appear overeager. It was a delicate balance in this business between seeming confident, but not overly so - enthusiastic, but not too giddy. It was a tough business, always trying to adapt yourself to what the casting director was looking for today, which might not be the same tomorrow. Everything was constantly in flux.
“That’s me,” she said brightly to the woman as she arrived at the door.
“Grand,” the woman groaned, waving her inside.
This was the hard part. It was a selective audition, her headshots and resume already in the hands of the small table of people who would be watching her deliver her lines. It was much better than the cold call auditions when you were up against countless others, usually reading lines you’d never seen before and with no context, in some cases. She was prepared for this and had already met some basic criteria set out for the part.
Prompted by the director’s assistant, she read her lines flawlessly. She was quite pleased with how well she had done, but it was difficult to discern any feedback from the poker faces in front of her. One of the men sitting there nodded and waved a hand in dismissal.
“Thanks. You can go.”
“Thank you,” she replied, resisting the urge to ask all the questions that always danced through her mind at auditions.
When can I expect to hear from you? How much does this pay? Is there contact info for someone I can follow up with? I desperately need the money, so if you could just help a girl out. Please?
The unspoken words swirled about her head as she exited the room and made her way out to the lobby. She really needed an agent, but she hadn’t had much luck finding one. There were a lot of scammers out there that would happily take her money and do nothing for her, but the ones who actually got you work and good pay were much harder to come by with such little experience. So, for now, she had to go it alone.
Stepping out into the sunshine, she glanced down the street at people chattering happily at sidewalk cafes. It must be nice to be so carefree. She’d love to just sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee, to feel calm and content. Instead, she was a walking ball of angst, always gripped by her fears of not making it, of failing. She had come to Los Angeles to be a star, but it wasn’t not making it on screen that concerned her as much as not making it at life. She was always broke and worried about hitting the absolute bottom.
Today, though. Luck was in her favor. She had barely cleared her apartment door when she got a phone call that could make all the difference in her pathetic life.
“This is she.”
“This is Audrey Monroe. I’m calling on behalf of Patriot Films. Based on your audition today, we’ve shortlisted you to speak directly to the producer, per his request.”
“Oh. Wow. I’m . . . thank you,” she stammered.
“You’ll be meeting with Dallas Dalton. He only has a short time before he has to fly out for an engagement in New York, so the meeting will be held at his hotel room. Can you be there at 8 p.m. tonight?”
Lorna was almost giddy as she wrote down the details and ended the call. Wow. Dallas Dalton! He was well known in the industry. The details of the production she was auditioning for had been pretty vague, nothing unusual about that. If Dalton was involved though, it was major and the part she had auditioned for was listed as a fairly large supporting role. It wasn’t top billing, but it was a great opportunity to get her face on screen beyond short films and low budget features. More importantly, it might be enough to get her noticed. Great careers had been launched off of lesser roles.
As it got closer to time for her to go to her appointment, she took great care with her hair and makeup, selecting just the right dress to wear. Her character was described as a sexy executive and she had dressed accordingly for the initial audition, but wanted to push it up a notch for the final selection. She changed from the plunging cowl shirt and tailored pants she had been wearing into a white button down shirt, left unbuttoned just enough to show a hint of cleavage and knee length pencil skirt. The look was completed by sleek black high heeled pumps and a loose hair knot that was serious, but just a tad flirty.
She looked at herself in the mirror appreciatively. It wasn’t bad. Her dark hair and dark eyes worked well with the outfit. If she didn’t get this, it would definitely not be because she didn’t look the part. She freshened up her bright red lipstick and put it in her bag to take with her. Hopefully, she would be getting right in to see him, but sometimes these types were late and couldn’t be bothered to do the full audition they had requested. She might have to wait hours for a few minutes or, even worse, get a side glance as he was on the run to elsewhere. It was always good to be prepared for anything.
“Where to?” the cab driver asked as she climbed into the back seat, careful to smooth down her skirt so it didn’t get too wrinkled.
“Ritz Carlton,” she told him.
“LA or Marina Del Ray?”
It was a short trip, but the traffic was horrible. She was beginning to fear she’d be late, despite having left early to prevent that, but the driver ended up getting her there with a good fifteen minutes to spare. It would give her time to freshen up and find where Mr. Dalton was doing his auditions. Sometimes, they were done in event rooms and sometimes, they were done in rooms. She’d heard horror stories of girls who had gone up to rooms unwittingly and the news was full of them as part of the whole #metoo movement, but she’d never heard anyone have a cross word about Dalton. She felt safe, either way.
“I’m here to see Dallas Dalton,” she told one of the front desk clerks.
“Name?” the young lady asked.
“Lorna Dunne,” she replied, noting how the woman looked her up and down with a hint of distaste. “I’m scheduled for an audition,” she added.
“Right.” The woman picked up the desk phone and pushed a few buttons, giving her a condescending smile as she waited for someone to come on the line. “Mr. Dalton, you have a guest named Lorna Dunne at the front desk,” she said, listening for a moment, and saying a polite goodbye. “He says for you to come up. Room 626.”
Lorna thanked her and walked over to the elevators, pushing the button and waiting. She fished her mirror from her purse and waited for the doors to open, powdering her nose and freshening her lipstick after she stepped on and the doors closed behind her. Putting her makeup back in her bag, she looked in the larger mirror behind her, smoothing her clothes and giving herself the once over, one last time. She was incredibly nervous. This was so big! It could mean everything. She couldn’t afford to blow it.
Stepping out of the elevator, she followed the signs down the hallway until she found his room and knocked on the door. It took a really long time for him to come to the door. She was debating whether she should knock again when he finally opened it.
“Come in, come in,” he told her impatiently, already walking away.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Dalton,” she began to say, but he cut her off with a wave of his hand.
“Look, I don’t have time for formalities. I’m in a hurry. They said you did well in your audition and you’ve got the right look, so the only question here is how badly do you want this job?”
Lorna’s heart sank a little. She wasn’t sure exactly what he meant or how she was supposed to respond, but she suddenly had second thoughts about being here. Still, she stood her ground. Maybe he didn’t mean it like it came across.
“Well, it would be a great part for me and I really believe I could do it justice. Would you like me to go through the lines with you?”
“No. Look. I don’t care whether you can act or not. This part calls for someone who exudes sex appeal. You’ve got the look, nice long legs, perky full tits, pouty mouth. There are a lot of sex scenes. Can you do sex scenes.”
Lorna didn’t really care for the way he described her as if she was cattle at a stock sell, but in her line of work, she knew it sometimes came down to a physical look just as much as talent. She had done sex scenes in other movies, but no full nudity. It was something she had considered whether she was open to and the answer was fairly simple.
“Yes, as long as they are tastefully done, which I am sure would be the case based on your previous films.”
“Of course. Alright, then that’s what I want to see tonight.”
“I’m sorry. What is what you want to see?” she replied, not fully understanding.
“I want to see how you will look in a sex scene,” he said.
“I’m . . .,” she managed, searching for words.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake. Do you want the job or not? No? Fuck off out of my room. Yes? Get undressed and suck my cock,” he replied, already pulling his belt free from his pants. “I might even fuck your tight little asshole, but I won’t risk any bastards, so that’s all you’ll get from me.”
Lorna stared at him, frozen in place as his pants dropped to the floor. He looked almost comical standing there with his pants around his ankles, but nothing about this was funny. She had encountered casting couch situations before, but nothing so overt and certainly not while alone in a hotel room with someone.
“Well? Are we going to do this or not? I can get a girl in here before you’re even out the front doors that’s more than willing to do what it takes.”
Lorna broke free of her spell, turning and making a hasty retreat toward the door. She was turning the knob when she heard him laugh, almost snort. There was no way she was turning back to even see why. Instead, she turned the handle and pulled the door open.
“I hope you enjoyed your shitty little career while it lasted, bitch. Let’s see how far you get when I’m done telling everyone how much trouble you are. Let me know if you change your mind. I might can find you some work in porn videos,” he shouted at her as she fled down the hallway, practically running from the hotel.
“Are you okay?” the doorman asked her, summoning a taxi for her as she waited, already dissolving into tears despite trying to hold them back. She nodded and accepted the tissue he offered her, stepping into the backseat of the car that pulled up to the curb as he opened it for her. She managed to give the driver her address before dissolving into tears that continued to fall even as she arrived back at her apartment.
She took a long hot shower to wash away how dirty she felt after that encounter and went straight to bed, too devastated by the events that had unfolded to even decide what she could do about it. He could end her career, and why? Just because she rejected his sexual advances? She tossed and turned, agonizing over her options until she finally dropped off into a restless slumber.